The rise in the number of sexually transmitted infections in Scotland is of great concern although, in part, it reflects an increase in testing. We have matched previous levels of funding by investing £15 million over three years in the national sexual health strategy. We have also gone beyond that with additional funding to improve access to independent sexual health information in rural areas.
Early diagnosis and treatment will help to prevent longer-term problems that may be associated with STIs, including infertility. National health service boards have a central role to play in implementing the sexual health strategy. They are working to increase testing for STIs, especially chlamydia, in those who are under the age of 25.
The First Minister will be aware that there is good evidence that marginalised groups of young people who suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence are more likely to suffer the consequences of poor sexual health yet are least likely to take up existing services—a situation that should worry members of all parties. Does the First Minister share that concern?
I do share that concern. As Ian McKee will be aware, the new sexual health standards that were published by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland in March include a new target for chlamydia testing of young people in particular. For the first time, there is also a standard on tracing the former partners of those who have been diagnosed with an STI.
Ian McKee makes an important point about the situation of disadvantaged people, which is worthy of pursuit—on a cross-party basis, if he wishes—between him and the Minister for Public Health. They may wish to consider in particular the arguments around how the initiatives that we are taking will impact on the more socially deprived communities.
I have talked about the additional funding that is being provided to improve access to independent sexual health information in rural areas. That additional funding is being provided this year to do exactly that. The member would do well to join Ian McKee in looking at the issue and meeting the Minister for Public Health.